- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Department of Veterans Affairs has wrongly declared more than 4,200 veterans dead in the past four years, disrupting benefits to veterans and their dependents.

The VA acknowledged that it terminated benefits for 4,201 veterans who weren’t dead from 2011 to 2015, and subsequently reinstated the monthly benefits. Danny Pummill, a top VA official, said the agency’s computers do not collect information on the cause of the errors, but noted in the agency’s defense that the “accuracy [rate] of award terminations due to death was 99.8 percent.”

The errors were revealed in a letter from the VA to Rep. David Jolly, Florida Republican, who requested the information following a string of mistaken death cases in the Tampa, Florida, region.

“These numbers confirm our suspicion, that mistaken deaths by the VA have been a widespread problem impacting thousands of veterans across the country,” Mr. Jolly said. “It’s a problem that should have been addressed years ago, as it has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”

Mr. Jolly is a candidate for a Senate seat in Florida this year. He said his congressional staff has helped several veterans get benefits restored after they were wrongly declared dead in the past two years.

The VA announced in December a new process to avoid wrongly terminating benefits of veterans who are mistakenly declared deceased. Under the new guidelines, beneficiaries who are incorrectly declared dead can correct the error with the Department before monthly benefits are terminated.

Mr. Jolly said he will ask the department for a new annual survey on the mistakes.

“If the VA’s new policy is indeed working, this problem should be eliminated,” he said. “If the problem persists, then Congress will demand further action. This creates tremendous financial hardships and undue personal turmoil for veterans, many who are seniors relying primarily if not solely on their VA benefits.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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